ACT News


Taking a walk on the flip side

The Shine Dome (formerly the Australian Academy of Science building) in Acton has always looked a little like a flying saucer but in Trevor Dickinson's new, typically Dickinsonian rendition of it, it looks totally alien.

What is more it seems, glowing busily, (for these days the Dome is illuminated at night in ever-changing colours) all charged up. It seems poised to zoom off into the starry, starry night towards a galaxy, far away.

Loyal, velcroed-on readers, will remember a recent Gang-Gang piece about Newcastle artist Dickinson and his sketches, made during a recent safari to Canberra, of the mouldering Mandalay bus.

The decayed double-decker, now sitting in a park in Braddon where it is irresistibly attractive to graffiti artists, was once a famous night takeaway food venue. Pictured above is his typically Dickinsonesque finished version. Dickinson is one of this column's heroes because he sketches and paints Canberra subjects that Canberran artists generally ignore, showing a particular affection for absurd and unfashionable subjects (bus shelters, suburban letter boxes, and little souvenir caravans parked on top of Mount Ainslie). Another thing he does, as illustrated here with his Shine Dome, is to look at familiar Canberra things in wholly original, eye-opening ways.

Alas, there's no room here to show you his depiction of what he calls the ''brutish'' High Court, which he sketched from a kayak.

Whatever you were trying to do with the High Court, I told him yesterday, you've somehow made this hitherto forbidding, castle-like building seem as if it's made of jelly and quite approachable (edible, even).


The ever-transparent Dickinson owned up: He did some of his final versions of that drawing while he was wobbling his way home ''on the slow train from Sydney''.

''If I do something wrong when I'm drawing or painting I like to leave it in,'' he said.

And on the day he first sketched the High Court, from a kayak, (''I wanted to see Canberra from a different angle'') he'd actually set out for the Carillon but had thought better of it (''It seemed so far away'') and so had gone where winds and currents took him, eventually arriving, with his sketchbook, off the High Court.

He's happy for us to find a spaceship in his ''1950s science fiction'' Shine Dome, but it looked to him, when he saw it so luridly illuminated, '' a bit like a juke box'', one of those old-fashioned 1960s ones.

He also told me that while he was up here sketching the Mandalay bus - and getting about, by bicycle and kayak - he found ''an elephant'' at the Canberra Glassworks that no one else seems to have ever noticed there.

Can you see it? Once you do it will always be there, every time you visit.

Dickinson's works (some are made into postcards and posters but this columnist swears to having no pecuniary interest in them, and only a delight in how quirkily and amusingly they portray our city) can be seen online here.

Another Byron in our midst

Your columnist is always urging Canberrans to cheer up and to rhapsodise about the raptures of Canberra life. And so Gang-Gang leaps to publish this poem from Byron Kaufman of Downer inspired by his passionate, dream-like encounter with a lemon meringue tart purchased from a Mitchell farmers market vendor, Dream Cuisine.

The author swears that he has no financial or family connection with the divine tart's creators and that his only driver was his ''rapture''.

Ode to a Lemon Meringue Tart

Thy silken whipped meringue tart doth evoke my sigh.

Yet silent will I be, lest too popular this tart become.

Oh round shape, oh bliss, let me with my kiss

Envelop thy sweet tongue with mine lest I cry out.

Your sensuous charms blind my mind as taste buds shout:

''Beauty is truth, truth beauty - that is all ye know

And all ye need to know of the Dream Cuisine

Divine heaven-sent tart of lemony mereengue.''

(Author's note: It is very difficult to rhyme ''Cuisine'' with ''mereengue'' but I did it!)

Kaufman's tart praise enters a great tradition of poems in praise of food, of which Robert Southey's To A Goose is a famous example.

After a few lines of inquiry about what sort of career the goose has lived, Southey concludes lip-smackingly:

Departed Goose! I neither know, nor care.

But this I know, that we pronounced thee fine,

Seasoned with sage and onions, and port wine.